By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, May 25, the Republican controlled US House of Representatives passed the Republican budget resolution. Several members of the Alabama Congressional delegation commented on the budget proposal.
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) said in a statement, “We face a fiscal crisis in America. We spend more than we earn and then try to pretend deficits don’t matter. Our national debt is now over $18 trillion, and the deficit is set to rise massively in coming years due to structural problems with Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs. Because of this, righting our fiscal ship is one of my top priorities.”
The Budget Resolution increased critical funding for national defense. This was a key component of the budget that US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) strongly pushed for in negotiations. Rep. Roby said the budget is not perfect, but protects Fort Rucker, military from sequestration cuts: “I’m pleased to report this Budget Resolution funds the military at necessary levels and allows us to prevent unfair sequestration cuts that could severely harm readiness. I appreciate Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price for listening to the concerns we had about military funding and allowing a process wherein we could vote to secure greater funding.”
U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “The budget proposal I supported includes appropriate funding for our Nation’s military. We cannot accept the dangerous sequestration cuts to national defense as reality, and I was proud to work with Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry and my colleagues to pass an amendment that would restore defense funding to necessary levels.”
Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said, “As Chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, I’ve had the chance to deal directly with many of our most important defense programs meant to defend us against some of our worst enemies’ attacks on our homeland like Iran, Russia and North Korea. My subcommittee has held many hearings recently on funding for programs like our missile defense. During a recent hearing, Vice Admiral Jim Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency, responded to a question regarding what funding cuts mean for the Department of Defense when it comes to defending our homeland. Part of Syring’s response warned, “…with the development and testing that I see going on with North Korea – very specifically – and the pace and progress that they’re making, I’m in serious jeopardy without those improvements going to NORTHCOM Commander and advising him that the system is over-matched.”
Representative Rogers said, “‘Over-matched’ is not a word I ever want associated with our military capabilities. And being outdone by a country that doesn’t play by the rules, like North Korea, is unacceptable. Whether you are in East Alabama, or anywhere in America, our country’s defense budget is not only important to the folks at these facilities but also to the health of our national defense. Rest assured that I will work tirelessly to ensure our defense budget is always sufficient to adequately fund our military so that no adversary on the planet will ever over-match our forces.”
The House Budget Resolution that came out of committee would have set base military spending at sequestration levels, while creating a special account to provide more funding conditional if future savings became available. That proposal failed. The House then adopted an amended budget proposal that made sure no military spending was contingent on future savings that may or may not be realized.
The House Budget Resolution sets defense spending at $619 billion. That total includes $96 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending, which is used to fund conflicts across the globe.
Normally there would be one number for defense; but because the sequestration law caps base defense spending, the OCO funding will supplement readiness operations and other military activities that would typically be funded in the base budget. Rep. Roby said that this maneuver is not ideal, but was necessary under the circumstances to get defense funding to proper levels.
Congresswoman Roby said, “I voted against the law that created sequestration, and I continue to advocate changing it to treat our military fairly. But, we still have a responsibility to make sure our military has the training and resources it needs to meet global threats.” Roby warned, “The threat from ISIS is growing every day. Russia is increasingly aggressive. We don’t know what will happen with Iran and its nuclear ambitions. In a dangerous world, we cannot allow the ill-advised sequestration law to keep us from properly funding national defense.”
Representative Palmer said, “This budget was not perfect. I believe this budget, like the Republican Study Committee budget which I also supported, could have been more aggressive in fixing our fiscal problems. However, this budget creates a framework for reducing the size and scope of government by proposing serious reforms that steer us in the right direction. It repeals Obamacare, strengthens Medicare by providing market incentives for both better and less expensive care, lifts the ban on crude oil exports and creates work requirements for welfare. The House should act on each of these provisions and fully implement the budget. If this is done, I believe that the savings and economic growth that will occur as a result will exceed projections and further contribute to fixing the federal deficit and debt.”
Congressman Byrne said, “It is a basic responsibility of Congress to pass a budget each year that reflects our national priorities. That’s exactly what the House did today in passing a budget that puts our nation on a path to fiscal sanity without raising taxes.”
Rep. Palmer said, “I applaud the leadership of Chairman Tom Price and the hard work of the Budget Committee and Budget Committee staff in creating this budget and I hope we continue on the path of shrinking the size and scope of the federal government while empowering Americans to live up to their full potential.”
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) applauded the House passage of the FY 2016 House Republican budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 27): “Today, the House passed a pro-growth, balanced budget that establishes a stark contrast between our vision for the future, and that of the president. Instead of drowning our kids in a sea of red ink, we cut more than $5 trillion in spending and balance the budget within a decade. Instead of taking money out of the economy with more than $2 trillion in tax hikes, we call for reforming the entire tax code to make it simpler and fairer. And instead of shirking responsibility for entitlement reform, we offer a plan to strengthen and protect these programs for seniors and future generations. With additional proposals to cut red tape and boost American energy, our budget lays the foundation for more robust economic growth and more American jobs. I want to thank Chairman Price and the members of the Budget Committee for their hard work in advancing a balanced budget for a stronger economy and a safer America.”
The Budget Resolution sets Congress’ general framework for taxing and spending, which is to be filled in later with specific provisions, including tax policy and appropriations titles. The Budget Resolution is not binding and doesn’t become law. It is important as an agreed-to set of priorities and principles. The House Budget Proposal is titled, “A Balanced Budget for a Strong America.” The plan if it were implemented projects that it would balance the budget in less than 10 years without raising taxes. The budget submitted by President Barack Obama (D) does not show the budget balancing at any point, even with massive tax increases.
Rep. Byrne said, “Unlike President Obama’s budget, which never balances, our budget achieves balance in less than ten years with serious reforms to mandatory spending and cuts to wasteful spending programs. Our budget strengthens and preserves Social Security and Medicare to ensure they are solvent for future generations.”
The final House Budget Resolution with the increased, secure military funding passed by a vote of 228-199.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.